Rocco Orlando, 94, passed away peacefully at home in Hamden of Alzheimer’s disease, with his family by his side, on January 6, 2022. Beloved husband of the late Rae Rose Coppola Orlando, he was born in New Haven on March 29, 1927, the son of the late Rocco and Palmina (Riccardi) Orlando.
Rocco was educated in New Haven and left Hillhouse High School when he turned 18 during his graduation year to join the Navy and train as a naval aviator in torpedo bombers. When WWII ended at the time he was about to be sent overseas, he returned to Connecticut following a year of service to begin his studies at the Fort Trumbull branch of the University of Connecticut along with many others the under the GI bill.
His UConn bachelor’s degree was the first of many degrees for Rocco was a lifelong student as well as a distinguished educator. Following his graduation from UConn, he received a second bachelor’s degree from New Haven State Teacher’s College (now Southern Connecticut State University) and began his career as a teacher in a 4 room schoolhouse in Salem, Connecticut.
He went on to get a master’s degree from Fairfield University, studied at Bennington College as a John Hay Fellow, began doctoral studies at Columbia University, but changed to UConn where he received a Ph.D. in 1969. Widely recognized for his expertise in educational law, he also attended the UConn School of Law stopping his studies just short of attaining a law degree to spend time with his wife.
Rocco’s career was dedicated to education — he had a long association with the Amity Regional Schools – serving as a teacher, assistant principal, principal of the Orange Junior High School, Amity High School and Assistant Superintendent.
Rocco then moved to higher education joining the faculty of Southern Connecticut State College – spending 16 years as a professor, Dean of Professional Studies and Dean of the School of Education.
During his time as Southern, he oversaw the creation of many graduate programs that would contribute to Southern’s recognition as a University. Following Rocco’s retirement from Southern, he continued to be active in his second career as a labor mediator and arbitrator until he was eighty.
His Ph.D. dissertation was on the topic of teacher-board of education negotiations and he used this expertise to guide many teachers unions and boards of education to fair and amicable resolution – often in all night marathon negotiating sessions.
Rocco was dedicated to the Greater New Haven community and demonstrated this with his leadership and participation in many community organizations including the Italian American Historical Society of Connecticut, the New Haven Scholarship Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven.
His interest in the contributions of immigrants to New Haven resulted in his being instrumental in the creation of the Ethnic Heritage Center of Connecticut at Southern Connecticut State University. Most important, Rocco was the anchor for his extended family.
With his partner and soulmate Rae, they advised and cared for many. Central to his core was his total devotion to Rae and his commitment to caring for her when she developed M. S. They were always together, always sharing their lives and love.
He passed his love of learning on to his children and grandchildren. He and Rae had a deep love of travel – beginning with lengthy family road trips across the United States and Mexico. On a trip to Italy in the 1960’s, Rocco re-connected with Italian family members leading to long lasting relationships with family in Italy and Australia – traveling often to remain in touch.
In 1969, he led the family on a non-stop drive to Florida to witness the take-off of the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo 11 to the moon. In their later years, Rocco and Rae were avid cruise ship devotees – including a multigenerational cruise to Alaska with children and grandchildren.
Rocco is survived by his son and daughter-in-law Dr. Rocco Orlando, III and Joanne Papanek Orlando of South Glastonbury, his daughter and son-in-law Lisa Orlando Parisi and Michael J. Parisi of Cheshire as well as his grandchildren Rocco Orlando, IV (Katie Moran), Alexander Orlando and Laura Parisi and great granddaughters Brooke and Willow Orlando, his brother-in law and his wife Dr. Paul J. and Eileen Coppola of Madison and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank the staff and nurses of the Memory Support Unit at Whitney Center, the BrightStar caregivers and Connecticut Hospice for their outstanding care.
Funeral Services will be private with a memorial celebration of his life to come in the Spring. The Celentano Funeral Home, New Haven is caring for the family.
To leave a condolence please visit www.celentanofuneralhome.com. Memorial donations may be sent to The Orlando Family Scholarship in Memory of Rae Orlando, at The New Haven Scholarship Fund, PO Box 8936, New Haven CT 06532 or the Orlando Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Southern Connecticut State University Foundation, Inc., 501 Crescent Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1355 or online at SouthernCT.edu